Backpacking around the world on a budget: Queenstown to Picton Part 10

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In 2008, we embarked on our RtW trip, visiting seven countries. You find us in the the middle of the South Island of New Zealand. Next up we were heading north through the Island and ending up in the coastal regioon of Marlborough!

As Catherine and I drove into Queenstown, the sun was sparkling off the lake. The main street through town, Stanley Street, was filled with vibrant shops and tourists in search of that New Zealand thrill. Whether bungee jumping or sky diving, Queenstown offers both exhilaration and quiet nature spotting.

Once parked up, Catherine and I spent the day walking around this picturesque town, wondering in and out of pubs and joining the Queenstown trail.

Our lodgings was 12 Mile Delta campsite on the north side of Lake Wakatipu. This site was again basic, but did the job for a couple of nights. You could be in the best campsite in the world and sleeping in a car is never going to be great, especially if you’re over 6ft!

On one of our days spent in Queenstown, we caught the Skyline Cable Car up to the top of Ben Lomond Scenic Reserve. This had fantastic views of the lake and adjacent mountains. The cable car is a must and is a great way to spend some time contemplating the surroundings.

Soon, our days in Queenstown were over and we headed further north to Lake Hawea, passing Lake Dunstan on the way.

I can’t describe how amazing these lakes were, one after another after another. You could spend days at each one, climbing or following the walking trails.

At Lake Hawea, Catherine and I had lunch and paddled in the water. It was another day to grasp how lucky we were. At the Neck, we passed over to Lake Wanaka, which was much the same… beautiful and calm.

Next up was a visit to Fox Glacier, to do a glacier walk. The drive up was slow and windy, but the constant relay of mountains on show on the east side kept us entertained.

Blue Pools Track near Makarora was a great place to stop for a break and have a swim.

The road to Fox Glacier has an amazing coast line, with barren beaches and a lovely sea to cool down in.

Eventually reaching our destination – Fox Glacier town – we turned west and headed into the undergrowth on a dirt track hoping to end up at Gillespie Beach Campsite. This was not much of a campsite, more like a car park on a beach. Amazing as the views were, I was glad to wake up the next day and head to the Glacier itself.

At Fox Glacier town, we met our hiking guide who transported us to the base of the mountain. Hiking up this was not going to be easy!

The guide took it slow, which was good as the path was very narrow in places and it felt like we were clinging onto the side of the mountain. The walk took about 1.30 hours, but it was well worth it. The views overlooking the glacier were fantastic and Mount Cook was in full view.

The guide took us to one side and gave us some health and safety instructions . The ice itself is a rich blue and very slippery. The deep crevices are amazingly dangerous, once fallen into, it would be hard to get out.

Once the group had disembarked, Catherine and I jumped back into our hotel on wheels and headed north to Westport for lunch. En route, we stopped off at Punakaiki Pancake Rocks. If you like rock formations then New Zealand has a few great ones. With the Moeraki Boulders and these, you’ll be bowled over.

After a quick visit and food in Westport, Catherine and I headed for our next night’s kip at Kawatiri Historic Railway Walk. This was a ‘side of the road ditch and sleep’ job, as we ran out of daylight and needed to rest.

After an average night’s sleep in the back of the Toyota Starlet, we headed for breakfast in Motueka, then on to Collingwood and the Golden Bay. This was a huge bay, overlooking a beautiful coastline and waters. Tata beach and Wainui Bay were brilliant places to to relax and soak up the day.

Catherine and I drove back to Motueka and on to Nelson. Sitting on the eastern shores of Tasman Bay, Nelson is the oldest cities in the south island. It is the second-oldest settled city in the whole of New Zealand and was established in 1841. The city is well known for its thriving local arts and crafts scene.

On wards, we drove through the Rai Valley, with its rolling hills. We turned off and headed north to Elaine Bay and the French Pass. We had to be mindful of fuel usage, as it was common to not see a petrol station for miles and miles. After a slow drive we finally got to Elaine Bay.

This very low key, secluded village was an amazing oasis. In among the forests and hills, this little village, with crystal clear waters and beautiful houses, was a great place to spend the rest of the day. Had we known there was a camping ground we would have stayed for longer!

Elaine Bay was so wonderful we never made it to French Pass in the end.

By the time Catherine and I had made it back onto the state highway, night had fallen and we rocked up at Whatamango Bay Campsite in Picton. The campsite had a good view of the bay and Picton itself was a pleasant place to spend some days.

Checking out J & C.


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